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Kim Lansford’s Reverberating Legacy

A scholarship in memory of the late musician and educator preserves — and extends — the impact of her life’s work


Musician and educator’s legacy continues through scholarship

Kim Lansford’s legacy echoes through the Ozarks via the students she taught and the songs she sang.

For decades, Lansford and her late husband, Jim, shared old-time tunes through square and contra dances; their performances; and connecting new generations with an Ozarks style of song. She was known for her rhythm guitar and voice, which often brought old-time ballads to life.

In a different way, Lansford’s effort to educate and enlighten translated to work at Reeds Spring School District, where she long was a teacher, reading specialist and grant writer.

Lansford died in June 2023, ending — in a way — a story that took her from northern Missouri in 1955 to Stone County, where she lived for many years. Even though the adopted Ozarker is gone, her work will continue to impact through a scholarship endowment with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks and the Table Rock Lake Community Foundation.

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In September, old-time musicians jammed in memory of Kim Lansford at The Rock House in Reeds Spring. She and her late husband, Jim, were highly regarded musicians who preserved traditional Ozarks tunes. Gifts from her estate established a scholarship endowment for graduates of the Reeds Spring School District, where she taught for many years.

“Kim was really pleased with how that came together,” said Kevin Gerschefske, Lansford’s brother, at her memorial gathering in September. “Her legacy will live on, and she’ll help other students that are interested in music and in education.”

He shared those thoughts at The Rock House in Reeds Spring, where dozens of Lansford’s friends and family gathered to honor and remember Lansford’s life.

“She always was a gracious person and a gracious host,” said Jeanette Bair, a longtime friend of Lansford’s who hosted the gathering. “That’s kind of the spirit of tonight.”

Over a potluck meal, they shared memories of the many moments, performances, gatherings, songs, meals — she loved to cook and often gathered friends for elaborate meals — and students that remain part of her legacy.

“Kim was a teacher like none other,” said Cheryl Loftin, who worked as an aide in Lansford’s classroom for five years before completing her certification to teach.

Lansford portrait arfy23

Kim Lansford and her late husband, Jim, were highly regarded musicians who preserved traditional Ozarks tunes.

While she knew of Lansford’s abilities as a teacher, she was not immediately familiar with her skill as a musician. But after seeing her perform and witnessing her talent, she asked Lansford why she didn’t do music full-time.

“I asked her that day after she performed, ‘Why do you put up with school? Why don’t you just do this?’ She said, ‘Because teaching people to read is a noble thing to do.’”

But that music was always in the background, too. Lansford began her musical journey as a pianist, but her skill ultimately found a home in old-time music. Before Jim Lansford’s death in 2012, they were long a package deal, performing throughout the region and beyond, even traveling to Japan in 2000 as part of a musical exchange with Isesaki, a sister city of Springfield.

At her memorial, hard, black cases were lined up on the floor at the ready before their latches were opened, instruments taken in hand and used to play tunes that live and bring life. In one corner of the room, several of Lansford’s own instruments sat in a silent auction, their proceeds set to benefit the scholarship fund in her name.

“I take comfort that she and Jim are back together,” said Gerschefske. “They were a special team and my prayer is that they’re playing music together right now for those that have gone before.”

By Kaitlyn McConnell, writer in residence at the Community Foundation of the Ozarks

Read more from Annual Report FY23

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